Rally sends immigration message to Feinstein

Inviting people to bring pictures of family members who immigrated to the United States, Jewish leaders led a small rally in San Francisco this week at which they spoke in favor of congressional immigration reform that would prevent families from being broken up.

The June 17 gathering took place in front of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Post Street office, where a handful of community members joined the leaders in calling on the 79-year-old senator to remember her Polish and Russian immigrant roots.

“Judaism as we know it was able to be created because of the refuge that many countries provided the Jewish communities,” said one of the speakers, Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, a professor of rabbinic literature at American Jewish University in Los Angeles. “I am able to stand here today because of the refuge the United States provided my grandparents — through the family unification provision of the immigration law of the teens of the last century.”

Rabbis Jonathan Klein and Heather Miller hold family photos while listening to Rabbi Aryeh Cohen (right) speak June 17 in San Francisco. At left is Sophia Lanza-Weil of Bend the Arc. photo/bend the arc–simone hudson

Other speakers included Rabbi Jonathan Klein, the executive director of the Los Angeles association Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice; Rabbi Heather Miller of Los Angeles’ Beth Chayim Chadashim; and Jessica Trubowitch, director of legislative affairs and intergroup relations at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council.

The JCRC was a co-sponsor of the event along with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice; CLUE-LA; the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights; the American Jewish Committee; and the PICO National Network.

The event called on Feinstein “to reaffirm her commitment to prioritizing family unification in federal immigration reform bill legislation,” according to Bend the Arc. “Families have been torn apart as a result of our government’s current immigration policies,” a JCRC community alert noted.

The 90-minute event began with a press conference and ended with a session that included prayer and Jewish text study. Afterward, some of the leaders met with Sean Elsbernd, Feinstein’s deputy state director, and delivered letters from the sponsoring groups to the senator’s office.

“Immigration has been a central theme in the Jewish story since the biblical times of Abraham, Moses and Ruth, who all left their native lands in search of promise elsewhere,” Miller said. “Jewish communities fled persecution in Spain and Portugal, Central and Eastern Europe in medieval and modern times. As such, we deeply understand the importance of the ability to migrate and immigrate, and we strive to allow others to do so in search of the promise of a new life in a new land.”